University of Washington, PATH and Scientific Methods Inc. collaborate to develop and market new environmental surveillance tool for polio eradication

Partnership ensures global access to an improved filtration system designed to detect poliovirus—and potentially COVID-19

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Seattle, Washington, USA, April 27, 2020—PATH, the University of Washington (UW) and Scientific Methods Inc. (SMI), a subsidiary of the Institute for Environmental Health Laboratories, announce the commercial launch of the bag-mediated filtration system (BMFS) to support environmental surveillance of poliovirus (PV).

The innovative new system is validated for the sensitive capture and detection of PV, and the use of the system for other viruses is expected to be equally effective. The tool strengthens environmental surveillance efforts in support of the global eradication of polio and potentially in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as the filter can capture both viruses at the same time from a sample.

Enteric viruses, including PV and coronaviruses, can be shed into waste streams. Detecting these viruses from sewage can be an accurate indicator of the presence and prevalence of different viral diseases within a population.

The BMFS is a new environmental surveillance tool, developed by PATH and the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS), that is being manufactured and sold by SMI. Effective environmental surveillance tools such as the BMFS could supplement ongoing activities supporting efforts for the global eradication of polio, and could assist in understanding the distribution and persistence of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, in areas where clinical surveillance is very limited.

“The bag-mediated filtration system moves sample concentration from the lab to the field and facilitates collection of samples in logistically challenging settings,” said Scott Meschke, UW DEOHS professor and assistant chair.

“The fact that we have demonstrated that other viruses are efficiently captured has created an opportunity to use the BMFS in helping understand the distribution of SARS-CoV-2 virus, much in the same way that is already done for polio,” said David Boyle, chief scientific officer, PATH Diagnostics Program and DEOHS affiliate associate professor.

Since the late 1980s, the number of polio cases globally has dropped by more than 99 percent, and now only two countries are endemic for wild poliovirus (WPV) transmission. Preventing the spread of the highly infectious virus, which can cause paralysis, requires a sensitive surveillance system to detect circulating PV in communities and to alert health systems of the need for immunization activities and prevention efforts.

The new BMFS functions by collecting wastewater in a bag and passing it through a simple filter that specifically binds PV and other enteric viruses. In doing so, it can sample volumes of up to 6 liters of wastewater, concentrating and improving the capture of PV and other enteric viruses in filter cartridges. Because of the biohazardous content, BMFS is advantageous as the sample is processed in the field and contents secured in a filter housing during transport to the laboratory. The captured viruses are then further concentrated using a new rapid method prior to analysis.

The result is a system that is logistically feasible to use in remote and challenging environments and that can detect low amounts of virus. Specific to PV, the BMFS has similar or improved performance relative to the current standard method. The new system could serve as an important value addition to the options available for methodologies for PV surveillance and could supplement the current activities.

It can also be expanded in use to support environmental surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 virus to understand community transmission to inform the broader response to the current pandemic.

“The success of polio eradication efforts by the global health community has led to a huge reduction of clinical cases,” Boyle said. “As further progress is made in shrinking the geographies where PV circulates, more sensitive environmental surveillance methods can highlight the risk of an outbreak before it occurs, giving health workers time to immunize the vulnerable and prevent illness and the continued spread of the virus to other communities,” Boyle said.

The development of this product was supported by grants from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

For product inquiries or orders, please visit Scientific Methods Inc. or call 574-277-4078.

About University of Washington

The Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington investigates how environmental and workplace factors affect people’s health. We educate tomorrow’s health and safety leaders and create sustainable health solutions through our innovative research, public service and cross-disciplinary partnerships. Our goal: create sustainable communities where everyone has access to clean air, clean water, safe food and safe workplaces.

About PATH

PATH is a global organization that works to end health inequity by bringing together public institutions, businesses, social enterprises, and investors to solve the world’s most pressing health challenges. With expertise in science, health, economics, technology, advocacy, and dozens of other specialties, PATH develops and scales solutions—including vaccines, drugs, devices, diagnostics, and innovative approaches to strengthening health systems worldwide.

About Scientific Methods Inc.

Scientific Methods Inc. provides advanced testing solutions ranging from identifying pathogens and microorganisms to device or method validation studies. Over the years Scientific Methods has changed and adapted to meet the needs of our clients. Our goal from the beginning has been to provide the best laboratory services possible to our clients while providing a personal touch. We believe in tailoring services to meet a client’s needs. Our interests and services have always been based in the fields of microbiology and molecular biology. This allows us to add to our growing list of services, including sample analysis, method and product development, research, and consultation.